CIRCLE OF NATIONS SCHOOL RECEIVES HEALTHIER US SCHOOLS CHALLENGE GOLD AWARD
Gold Award Day Celebrated April 20th
WAHPETON, ND--Circle of Nations School (CNS) has achieved a 2012 Gold Award in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) “recognizing excellence in nutrition and physical activity.” Janet Danks, foodservice supervisor, indicated “We were notified it’s the first Indian school in the state or region to receive a Gold.” The award came after application review by ND offices and Mountain Plains Regional Office of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service in Denver, CO. The process required written documentation for each criteria meeting Bronze, Silver, or Gold requirements. It also involved site inspections of the school foodservice program and menus. Becky King, registered dietician at the state level, encouraged CNS to apply after her site inspection last school year. Danks explained, “The menus meet USDA Nutrient Standards and Dietary Guidelines for Americans using whole grains, low-fat dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy choices and preparation methods.”
April 20 was declared Gold Award Day at the school. The schedule included special visitors, musical entertainment by students, girls’ athletic dance performance and CNS Drum honoring ceremony followed by a free healthy lunch for everyone. Indian Health Service staff from Sisseton, SD contributed to the event with the walk-through Super Colon and “Salad Sisters” show. A guided tour through the 20-foot-long, 8-foot-high inflatable, interactive colon offered information about the risks, symptoms, prevention, early detection and treatment options for colorectal cancer. What are two ways to prevent it? “Good nutrition and physical activity!” students shouted. The “Salad Sisters” skit was a hit! The colorful group of fruits and vegetables encourage early adoption of healthy eating patterns (Eat a Rainbow!) to prevent adult diabetes, cancer, and other health issues. Students adopted the refrain, “Five is fine, but nine is divine!”
The “Salad Sisters” song and dance was interrupted by The Polyp, an unattractive character played by another I.H.S. staff, who suddenly appeared in the gym. A beat-down commenced before the startled and amused CNS audience. The fruits and vegetables jumped offstage and routed The Polyp, yelling “What is that ugly thing? He’s trying to get in our colon, we gotta stop him!”
CNS is an off-reservation intertribal boarding school with 100% of students eligible for free and reduced school lunch program. CNS also provides fruit and vegetable nutrition breaks three times daily and has a daily salad bar along with three healthy meals. A school kitchen garden helps provide fresh produce, nutrition education and physical activity at CNS. The “Green & Growing” project promotes eco-education and Native American gardening curriculum.
A congratulatory letter from Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, states “This Challenge is a cornerstone of the Let’s Move! Initiative, an ambitious initiative to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation.” Physical education and activity, nutrition education and healthy environment were considered in the selection. Circle of Nations is a Green School and designated site for Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools curriculum. Mrs. Obama is a proponent of kitchen gardens, which are part of the environmental health and Green School framework. Fresh produce is used at CNS or donated to Hunger Free ND.
Katlyn Nelson, athletic director, said. “Receiving this award from the USDA and recognition from the First Lady of the United States is a true honor. Circle of Nations School as a whole has worked hard to help our students make smarter choices and provide numerous school and recreation activities. Staff goes the extra mile to make activities physical verse sedentary. Our kitchen staff makes the extra effort providing healthy meals for our students and staff. It is wonderful to always be offered fresh fruits and vegetables during every school meal as well as an explanation that is visual for students to learn what they are putting into their bodies. This truly helps everyone understand the connection between healthy meals and healthy bodies. The kitchen staff as well as our facilities department even went as far as to plant a vegetable garden where many of our natural produce items come from.”
“Students can learn Native culture, science, and nutrition skills along with physical activity,” said principal Brad Zachow. “They grew corn on the cob, Halloween pumpkins, and homemade salsa ingredients--peppers, tomatoes, onions, cilantro. They are still eating broccoli and cabbage that they planted last spring.”
CNS Woody Keeble Gym entrance has two plaques in the hall, honoring students each year for two accomplishments: President’s Fitness Challenge, a national program and Physical Education Warriors, created at CNS to recognize non-competitive achievement. CNS provides physical education and health curriculum along with organized physical activity during recess and non-academic hours. Biometric data collection and fitness testing shows students who significantly improve over the course of a school year. “The Indian Health Service crew has been phenomenal,” enthused Marjo Bjorlin, PE/Health instructor. “The nurses come from Sisseton, SD to help us conduct the biometric testing and classroom health education activities. “
The letter from Mrs. Obama stated, “As a winner of the Gold Award, Circle of Nations Wahpeton Indian School is among the very best of the best—going above and beyond the requirements to help ensure your students live full and active lives. The environment you and your team have created through education, nutritious food and beverage choices, and opportunities for physical activity will help your students learn how to make healthy choices now and in the future.”
Athletic director Nelson commented, “The USDA is correct when they state ‘good nutrition and physical activity help students learn.’ I have seen a complete turnaround in the student’s athletic performance and academic scores. It is very important that our students recognize why they have extra energy and alertness, and with support by the Sisseton health service, we have the ability to educate our students effectively.”
Peggy Johnson, nursing supervisor for Sisseton I.H.S., responded, “The honor is ours! We have such a great working relationship that has a positive outcome for the students, which is the main goal. “
Nelson concluded, “When I first came to Circle of Nations, I had a goal to use my education to help the students of become stronger mentally and physically. It is a great feeling to know that I was not the only one who had the same goals in mind. “